The Milgram Obedience Experiment


Three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, American psychologist Stanley Milgram began a series of socio-psychological experiments to determine whether Eichmann and his accomplices shared Nazi beliefs, at least for the purposes of the Holocaust. Test results suggest that those involved were simply following orders, even if it contradicted their moral principles. The experiment was repeated on numerous occasions, and the results were similar.

In the experiment subjects were asked by an authority to do things that contradict with their morality and conscience. In the original experiment of 1961, 40 subjects were explained that they will participate in a memory study. They had to put a number of questions to another volunteer (who was actually an actor), but every wrong answer had to be punished with an electric shock that will rise to a maximum of 450 volts.
These two were separated in different rooms and could communicate without seeing each othere. Obviously, the actor will give mostly wrong answers and voltage is rising to one point that the actor begins to complain of pain and even knocking on the wall. At 135 volts some subjects begin to question the methods of the study and want to stop, but continues after they are assured that everything is okay and that they are not responsible for nothing. After 4 encouragements if the subject refused to continue then the experiment is finished, otherwise it will continue until it applies three consecutive shocks of 450 volts.

Before performing this experiment Milgram conducted a series of surveys among psychology students and psychologists to predict outcomes. Students rated that a maximum of 3% of the subjects would go all the way, and psychologists predicted that 0.1% of subjects would continue until maximum voltage. They could not be further from the truth! In the experiment 65% (26 of 40) of the subjects continued to apply electric shocks to the end although at one time or another everyone tried to stop or have questioned the alleged study and showed signs of tension and stress .

The experiment was repeated in a documentary called Game of Death (Le Jeu de la mort) in 2010 in France to test the power of television. 80 subjects were convinced that they are participating in a pilot episode of a TV game in witch they will apply electric shocks for every wrong answer to a player, encouraged by television host and studio audience. Out of 80 participants only 16 stopped, 80% going ’till the end of the game.


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